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Gold Gone? Germany baffled as Fed bars access to bullion

Israel lobby threatens freedom of speech in Germany

Despite lobby pressure, German solidarity with Palestine continues. (Photo: Sabine Utopia/Palestine Chronicle)

by Dr. Ludwig Watzal – Bonn, source

Due to the pressure from the “Israel lobby”, events and exhibitions about Palestine can hardly take place in Germany anymore. The pro- Zionist “Israel lobby” is well organized. When an event is announced publicly, perfectly organized machinery is set in motion, which exercises massive pressure on those who provide the premises for a Palestinian event. Consequently, it has become almost impossible to have an open debate about Israel’s policy towards the Palestinian people and the Zionist colonization in Palestine.

The latest “success” of this lobby was garnered in Berlin. The cultural department of the Iranian Embassy in Berlin wanted to organize a conference entitled “Palestine – Peace based on justice” on Friday, August 16, 2013 at the educational institution “Urania”. All formalities were cleared. Speakers were committed among them the journalist Petra Wild who just published a book entitled “Apartheid and ethnic cleansing of Palestine: The Zionist settler colonialism in word and deed”,  the film-makers Stefanie Landgraf and Johannes Gulde who’s film “We refuse to be enemies” was highly acclaimed but also defamed by the lobby in cooperation with one of the cities deputy majors in Nuremberg, Dr. Gabi Weber who runs the organization “Café Palestine” in Freiburg, Raif Hussein, the chairman of the German-Palestine society, and Dr. Yavuz Özoguz who operates the website “Muslim Market” who is also regularly defamed. Why was not Ilan Pappe or Felicia Langer invited?

Because of the pressure from the “Israel lobby”, the director of “Urania”, Dr. Ulrich Bleyer, unceremoniously pulled back from an already given commitment. Adding his voice of that to the usual suspects, the chairman of the German-Israeli Society, Reinhold Robbe (SPD), wrote a letter to Bleyer in which he not only misquoted the newly elected Iranian President Hassan Rohani, but also linked this misquotation to the unspeakable crimes committed by the Nazi regime against the Jews. In this case, the “Israel lobby” restored even to lies in order to blackmail an institution to renege on its existing commitments.

Dr. Bleyer, visibly giving in to the pressure, wrote inter alia to the Iranian Embassy: “The program and the research on the speakers can clearly expect that our statutory goal of international understanding, which is also defined in the terms of our agreements as a condition of hire is not respected.” Why didn’t the director of “Urania” inform himself beforehand about the speakers? He further was afraid that the speakers could challenge “Israel’s right to exist” and legitimize terrorism as “a form of resistance against an occupying power”. Dr. Bleyer wrote that he expected a “large number of protesters”, and “that there will be clashes during the event or at the Urania.” The threats in the protest letters must have been so intimidating that he has canceled the event.

Cafe Palestine and Dr. Gabi Weber are increasingly in the crosshairs of this lobby, too. The lobby, for example, succeeded to prevent a lecture by Prof. Christophe Oberlin of the University of Paris on the topic “Plastic Surgery in Gaza” at the University of Freiburg. The lobby is always proceeding along the same pattern: Defame and put pressure on the institutions. “Café Palestine” was compelled to sue the University for bowing to the pressure to obtain cause.

Another object of attack by “Israel lobby” is the traveling exhibition “Nakba – flight and expulsion of Palestinians in 1948″, organized by the association “Refugee children in Lebanon”, and headed by Ms. Ingrid Rumpf. Organizers and local authorities are regularly subjected to by German-Jewish and Zionist organizations to prevent this exhibition. Their goal is to prevent public awareness of this crucial chapter in the history of the State of Israel. Claiming that the exhibition is one-sided, the lobby prefers to prohibit it than to engage in a rational debate regarding the subject-matter. In many cases, German institutions bow to the pressure of the “Israel lobby”.

The problem appears not so much to reside to the real power of the “Israel lobby” but rather in the submissiveness of the German side. If the lobby cannot rely on their uncritical support, they can easily refute because the lobby does not have real arguments.

Chas Freeman, a former U. S. ambassador to Saudi Arabia and a respected scholar, was bullied by the “Israel lobby” before he could even take a job in the Obama administration. His blunt characterization of this lobby may also hold true for the lobby’s German branch: “The tactics of the Israel Lobby plumb the depths of dishonor and indecency and include character assassination, selective misquotation, and the willful distortion of the record, the fabrication of falsehoods, and an utter disregard for the truth.”

It is high time for the Germans to recognize that the commitment for freedom in Palestine has become a fight for our own freedom to inquire, know and express the truth.

German supermarket chain Aldi bans ‘Israeli’ goods in Netherlands

bds

Press TV

The Netherlands branch of the German supermarket chain Aldi has started boycotting products from Israeli settlements in a bid to avoid controversy in its sales.

According to a statement released by a spokesman for the Aldi chain on July 22, the decision to boycott the settler goods is applied to Syria’s occupied Golan Heights, West Bank and East al-Quds (Jerusalem).

Earlier this week, a report published by the Amsterdam-based Trouw daily revealed that two major supermarkets in the Netherlands, Hoogvliet and Jumbo, decided to boycott products manufactured in Israeli settlements.

In May, the Dutch Foreign Ministry said in a circular that it would be better for retailers to replace “Made in Israel” labels with a label reading as “Product from Israeli settlement.”

Israel occupied and annexed the Golan Heights in 1967, in a move not recognized by the United Nations and the international community.

Also, the Tel Aviv regime continues expanding its illegal settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories.

More than half a million Israelis live in over 120 illegal settlements built since Israel’s occupation of the Palestinian territories of the West Bank and East al-Quds in 1967.

The settlements are considered illegal by the international community because the territories were captured by Israel and are hence subject to the Geneva Conventions, which forbid construction on occupied land.

The continued expansion of the Israeli settlements has also created a major obstacle for the efforts to establish peace in the Middle East.

‘German government sells the privacy of German citizens to the US’

RT

The recent NSA spying scandal showed the German government behaves towards US like a puppet regime, involving all major political parties just before the September elections, German journalist Manuel Ochsenreiter told RT.

RT: Let’s just discuss it now with the journalist  Manuel Ochsenreiter who is joining us from Berlin. Mr. Ochsenreiter, to what extend do you think Germany may have cooperated with the NSA?

Manuel Ochsenreiter: Well, I think it’s a matter of fact that we know that the German authorities, the German mainstream politicians, the German government they all cooperate in a very intense way with US intelligence. I feel a little bit weird to use the term “cooperation” for this because when we look exactly on what is going on that they were spying on German citizens we have to say that the German government behaves towards the US government in this question more or less like a US puppet regime. No claim of sovereignty. No claim of independence. Of course, no claim of privacy, for the right to privacy of their own citizens. So, the German citizens are not at all protected by their own government. The German government sells the privacy of German citizens to the US government. And this is the really, really serious case, it’s a big scandal.

RT: Snowden claims top politicians were insulated in case of a scandal – yet now they seem to be outraged. What you are saying is that they might be doing this because of the public outrage. What’s got them more angry then, if that’s the case that they did not know, or that they did not know about the scale of the operations that they would too be spied on?

MO: To be honest I believe that they are angry that it became public, that now all the facts are open and the citizens can see what’s going on because I wouldn’t believe any word right now of a government politician. By the way, I’m also not fond of opposition politicians in the German parliament. We have to know that the government before the Merkel government was built by the GPD opposition. And they cooperated as well with the Americans as the today’s government are doing this. And when we listen very well to the words of mainstream politicians in Germany we hear right now a lot of justifications of this. Yes, let us say cooperation as they call it. They say it’s for our security, they say that this is a partnership, that this is a friendship but, of course, it’s not. It’s pure spying. And we have to watch a little bit back in the past we had in the 1990s the ECHELON project. It was also USA spy project especially on Germany. And this spying project was especially for economic espionage. The German companies, the German economy was monitored by the US secret service. So, what we see here is that Germany is behaving more or less like, well, let me say like a state fully under control of the US without any independence. And the scandal’s not that US are doing that.  Real scandal’s  that the German politicians are not doing something  against it…

‘German politicians should expel the US American military bases’

RT: Snowden did say that this went beyond agreements between the countries in terms of what they can share, what they can… in terms of sharing information. So, how is this affecting the politicians knowing that. They have been spied on far more than the agreement they had. So, yes, so, we say “yes” they did know about this. But to the extent that they have been spied on, I mean, this is going beyond spying on just their own citizens. It goes it is spying within politicians as well. How are they reacting to that? Is it going to create tension between the US and its allies now? Are they not seeing this? Are we just reading too much into something which is been happening anyway?

MO: We are knowing a very interesting time Germany because we have in September the elections. And I think the spying scandal is really really disturbing the elections campaigns of all the mainstream parties because they all are involved in the scandal. So, what they are doing now is that they all try to give the impression that on the one side they knew about so-called cooperation but that they are completely surprised about how far it went. And to be honest I wouldn’t believe any word because we had already the experience in the past about how far the US governments are going and how they treat their so-called allies or their so-called partners. So, if the German politicians… Let me finish with one sentence. If they are really so upset and so surprised as they act now then we have to see the consequences. And they are many consequences we could do with. For example, that the US ambassador is summoned to the Chancellor and is so criticized that there is diplomatic protest, that, for example, we make it to initiate that we have until today US barracks and US army troops on Germans soil. And we know that those military bases are also used for the NSA projects. So we invite the Americans to our country or our politicians invite them in our country to establish their military and intelligence bases there. So, if the German politicians want to do something it’s very easy to them just expel the US American military bases. Don’t make any more Germany do the military aircraft carried out in Europe of the US Americans. It would be easy but they will not do, because they believe in this partnership which is not a partnership.

RT: So, how does the spying on the EU leaders, and seat with the intelligence community cooperating. I mean, is that a sign that the US doesn’t trust its allies? Or it’s just keeping a close eye on its allies?

MO: I think this shows a lot about the attitude of the American government has towards the allies because we are never talking about the partnership we are talking about hegemonic politics. They want to be able to control a partnership or something else. Partnership is when two countries make an agreement with each other. But what we see here is that the US are gained the control and for control of those countries. I’m not sure that it will really bring mistrust in the EU bureaucracy because these people are used to that and I’m not sure if they are really upset about this because they know about this. But the interesting question is how long will the population be so tolerant to bear those problems. This is the interesting question.

RT: Just one more from you. In terms of destroying itself, I mean, we now have been focusing a lot on Snowden instead of what he’s actually been leaking. Do you think we are just kind of missing what politicians in the EU are trying to cover all of this up, by focusing on him rather then what actually Snowden keeps on releasing?

MO: Why? I don’t know. Perhaps, it might be interesting what Snowden has on his four laptops he took with him and I’m pretty much sure the information we got until now is not really 100% percent of what he has with him. I think you know he is in Moscow. Now, I think, the Russians are very interested in the content and the Germans again (I’m from Germany) my politicians, my government, they should be really interested in the content of the full-scale, of these espionage practices if they really want to know this. But I don’t see that right now. But I think in the near future we will get may be a lot of surprises how intense the spying is really.

NSA spies in bed with Germany, other Western states: Snowden

by Carlos Latuff

Press TV

U.S. intelligence leaker Edward Snowden said the National Security Agency (NSA) has massive spying partnerships with other Western states that are now grumbling about the agency’s surveillance programs.

He made the comments in an interview with U.S. cryptography expert Jacob Appelbaum and documentary filmmaker Laura Poitras before revealing the NSA’s internal and global surveillance programs last month.

NSA spies are “in bed together with the Germans and most other Western states,” Snowden said in remarks published by the German news weekly Der Spiegel on Sunday.

The fugitive leaker added that the NSA has a department called the Foreign Affairs Directorate which coordinates work with Western spying agencies.

Snowden said the NSA, for example, provides Germany’s BND foreign intelligence agency with “analysis tools” for data passing from regions like the Middle East through Germany.

The former NSA contractor has also revealed that the American agency spies on European Union offices in New York, Washington and Brussels, drawing ire from European leaders, especially Germany.

The NSA, according to top secret documents disclosed by Snowden, also collected around half a billion telephone calls, emails or mobile phone text messages and Internet chat entries in Germany per month.

Germany demanded an immediate explanation from the U.S. over the surveillance programs.

Justice minister, Sabine Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger, strongly condemned the U.S. spying, saying it was reminiscent of “the methods used by enemies during the Cold War.”

Snowden, 30, has reportedly holed up in the transit area of Moscow’s Sheremetyevo International Airport since arriving on a flight from Hong Kong on June 23. He is wanted in the US on espionage charges.

Germany describes UK/US global spying operation as disaster

Press TV

The German government has angrily challenged UK ministers over the whole Government Communications Headquarters’ (GCHQ) Project Tempora, which monitors global phones and internet traffic.

German justice minister, Sabine Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger, described the UK/US operation as a disaster that sounded “like a Hollywood nightmare”.

Schnarrenberger also warned UK ministers that free and democratic societies could not thrive when nations shielded their activities in a “veil of secrecy”.

On Tuesday, the German justice minister sent two letters to Britain’s home secretary Theresa May and justice secretary Chris Grayling, expressing the widespread growing concern the secret operation has caused in Germany and urging to be told about the extent to which German citizens have been targeted.

This is the first main challenge that British Prime Minister David Cameron and his government must face, publicly justifying the mass probe operation, which was leaked by the former US intelligence contractor and whistleblower Edward Snowden.

Meanwhile, German Chancellor Angela Merkel showed her aggravation that many of the questions raised by the revelations made by Snowden have gone unanswered by the involved US government.

The Guardian newspaper’s exposure of GCHQ’s secret decision to use more than 200 probes to tap into the transatlantic cables to monitor and store up to 30 days of the world’s telephone and global traffic has fuelled outrage in Germany and other European countries.

The Fall of the House of Europe

by Dave Brown

by Pepe Escobar, source

The Enchanters came / Cold and old,
Making day gray / And the age of gold
Passed away, / For men fell
Under their spell, / Were doomed to gloom.
Joy fled, / There came instead,
Grief, unbelief, / Lies, sighs,
Lust, mistrust, / Guile, bile,
Hearts grew unkind, / Minds blind,
Glum and numb, / Without hope or scope.
There was hate between states,
A life of strife, / Gaols and wails,
Dont’s, wont’s, / Chants, shants,
No face with grace, / None glad, all sad.

W H AudenThe Golden Age

We have, unfortunately, no post-modern version of Dante guided  by Virgil to tell a startled world what is really happening in Europe in the wake of the recent Italian general election.

On the surface, Italians voted an overwhelming “No” – against austerity (imposed the German way); against more taxes; against budget cuts in theory designed to save the euro. In the words of the center-left mayor of Florence, Matteo Renzi, “Our citizens have spoken loud and clear but maybe their message has not been fully grasped.” In fact it was.

There are four main characters in this morality/existential play worthy of the wackiest tradition ofcommedia dell ‘arte.

The Pyrrhic winner is Pier Luigi Bersani, the leader of the center-left coalition; yet he is unable to form a government. The undisputed loser is former Goldman Sachs technocrat and caretaker Prime Minister Mario Monti.

And then there are the actual winners; “two clowns” – at least from a German point of view and also the City of London’s, via The Economist. The “clowns” are maverick comedian Beppe Grillo’s 5 Star movement; and notorious billionaire and former prime minister Silvio “Bunga Bunga” Berlusconi.

To muddle things even further, Berlusconi was sentenced to one year in prison last Thursday by a Milan court over a wiretapping scandal. He will appeal; and as he was charged and convicted before, once again he will walk. His mantra remains the same: ”I’m ‘persecuted’ by the Italian judiciary.”

There’s more, much more. These four characters – Bersani, Monti, Grillo, Berlusconi – happen to be at the heart of a larger than life Shakespearean tragedy: the political failure of the troika (European Commission, European Central Bank and International Monetary Fund), which translates into the politics of the European Union being smashed to pieces.

That’s what happens when the EU project was never about a political ”union” – but essentially about the euro as a common currency. No wonder the most important mechanism of European unification is the European Central Bank. Yet abandon all hope of European politicians asking their disgruntled citizens about a real European union. Does anybody still want it? And exactly under what format?

Meet Absurdistan

Why things happened in Italy the way they did? There is scarcely a better explanation than Marco Cattaneo’s, expressed in this blog where he tries to understand ”Absurdistan”.

It all started with an electoral law that even in Italy was defined as ulna porcata (a load of rubbish), validating a ”disproportional” system (political scientists, take note) that could only lead to an ungovernable situation.

In Cattaneo’s matchless depiction, in the Senate the One for All, All For One coalition (Bersani’s) got 31.6% of the votes. The Everyone for Himself coalition (Berlusconi’s) got 30.7%. And the brand new One Equals One All the Others Equal No One movement (Grillo’s) got a surprising 23.8%.

And yet, defying all logic, in the end Everyone for Himself got 116 seats, One for All, All for One got 113 seats, and One Equals One All the Others Equal No One got only 54 – less than half.

At street level, from Naples to Turin and from Rome to Palermo, there’s a parallel explanation. No less than 45% of Italians, from retired civil servants living on 1,000 euros (US$1,300) a month to bankers making 10 million euros a year, don’t want any change at all. Another 45% – the unemployed, the underpaid – want radical change. And 10% don’t care – ever. Add that to the ungovernability lasagna.

And extract from it a nugget of cappuccino-at-the-counter wisdom. Absurdistan’s finances will soon be in a state as dire as Hellenistan – those neighborly descendants of Plato and Aristotle. And then Absurdistan will become a model to Europe and the world – where 1% of the population will control 99% of the national wealth. From Lorenzo de Medici to Berlusconi; talk about Decline and Fall.

Bunga Bunga me baby

Tried to death (including being convicted for tax fraud in October 2012; he walked); beneficiary of dodgy laws explicitly designed to protect himself and his enormous businesses empire; the Rabelaisian Bunga Bunga saga. He beat them all (so far). Silvio Berlusconi may be the ultimate comeback kid. How did he pull it off this time?

It’s easy when you mix a billionaire’s media wattage (and corporate control) with outlandish promises – such as scrapping a much-detested property tax. How to make up for the shortfall? Simple: Silvio promised new taxes on gambling, and a shady deal to recover some of the funds held by Italians in Swiss banks.

Does it matter that Switzerland made it clear it would take years for this scheme to work? Of course not. Even Silvio’s vast opposition was forced to admit the idea was a ”stroke of genius”. Nearly 25% of Italians voted for Silvio’s party. Nearly a third backed his right-wing coalition. In Lombardy – informally known as the Italian Texas – the coalition smashed the center-left to pieces; Tuscany on the other hand voted traditionally left, while Rome is a quintessential swing city.

Silvio’s voters are essentially owners of small and medium-sized businesses; the northern Italy that drives the economy. They are all tax-crazy; that ranges from legions of tax evaders to those who are being asphyxiated by the burden. Obviously, they couldn’t care less about Rome’s budget deficits. And they all think German Chancellor Angela Merkel should rot in Dante’s ninth circle of hell.

Frau Merkel, for her part, had been entertaining the idea of quietly cruising the eurozone waters towards her third term in the coming September elections. Fat chance – now thanks to Silvio’s and Beppe Grillo’s voters. Talk about a North-South abyss in Europe. The EU summit this month is going to be – literally – a riot.

Those sexy polit-clowns

All hell is breaking loose in the EU. Le Monde insists Europe is not in agony. Oh yes, it is; in a coma.

And yet Brussels (the bureaucrat-infested European Commission) and Berlin (the German government) simply don’t care about a Plan B; it’s austerity or bust. Predictably, Dutch Finance Minister Jeroen Dijsselbloem – the new head of the spectacularly non-transparent political committee that runs the euro – said that what Monti was doing (and was roundly rejected by Italians) is ”crucial for the entire eurozone”.

In 2012, Italy’s economy shrank 2.2%, more than 100,000 small businesses went bust (yes, they all voted for Silvio), and unemployment is above 10% (in reality, over 15%). Italy may have the highest national debt in the eurozone after Greece. But here Absurdistan manifests itself once again via austerity; Italy’s fiscal deficit is much lower than France’s and Holland’s.

Pop up the champagne; France is in vertical decadence. It’s not only the industrial decline but also the perennial recession, social turbulence and public debt beyond 90% of GDP. France, the second-largest eurozone economy, asked the European Commission for an extra year to lower its deficit below 3% of GDP. Jens Weidman, president of the Bundesbank, roared ”Forget it”.

Portugal is also asking the troika for some room. Portugal’s economy is shrinking (by 2%) for the third year running, with unemployment at over 17%.

Spain is mired in a horrendous recession, also under a monster debt crisis. GDP fell 0.7% in 2012 and according to Citibank will fall a further 2.2% this year. Unemployment is at an overwhelming 26%, with youth unemployment over 50%. Not everyone can hit the lottery playing for Barcelona or Real Madrid. Ireland has the eurozone’s highest deficit, at 8%, and has just restructured the debt of its banks.

Greece is in its fifth recession year in a row, with unemployment over 30% – and this after two austerity packages. Athens is running around in circles trying to fend off its creditors while at least trying to alleviate some of the draconian cuts. Greeks are adamant; the situation is worse than Argentina in 2001. And remember, Argentina defaulted.

Even Holland is under a serious banking crisis. And to top it off, David Cameron has thrown Britain’s future in Europe in turmoil.

So once again it was Silvio’s turn – who else? – to spice it all up. Only the Cavaliere could boom out that the famous spread – the difference between how much Italy and Germany pay to borrow on the bond markets – had been ”invented” in 2011 by Berlin (the German government) and Frankfurt (the European Central Bank), so they could get rid of himself, Silvio, and ”elect” the technocrat Monti.

German media, also predictably, has been taking no prisoners with relish. Italy and Italians are being routinely derided as ”childlike”, ”ungovernable”, ”a major risk to the eurozone”. (See, for example,Der Spiegel.)

The ultra-popular tabloid Bild even came up with a new pizza; not a Quattro Stagioni (Four Seasons) but a Quattro Stagnazioni (Four Stagnations).

The verdict is of an Italy ”in the hands of polit-clowns that may shatter the euro or force the country to exit”. Even the liberal-progressive Der Tagesspiegel in Berlin defines Italy as ”a danger to Europe”.

Peer Steinbruck, Germany’s former finance minister and the Social Democratic candidate against Merkel next September, summed it all up: “To a certain degree, I am horrified that two clowns won the election.”

So whatever government emerges in Italy, the message from Brussels, Berlin and Frankfurt remains the same: if you don’t cut, cut and cut, you’re on your own.

Germany, for its part, has only a plan A. It spells out ”Forget the Club Med”. This means closer integration with Eastern Europe (and further on down the road, Turkey). A free trade deal with the US. And more business with Russia – energy is key – and the BRICS in general. Whatever the public spin, the fact is German think-tanks are already gaming a dual-track eurozone.

The people want quantitative easing

This aptly titled movie, Girlfriend in a Coma, directed by Annalisa Piras and co-written by former editor of The Economist Bill Emmett, did try to make sense of Italy’s vices and virtues.

And still, not only via Prada or Maserati, Parma ham or Brunello wines, Italy keeps delivering flashes of brilliance; the best app in the world – Atom, which allows the personalization of functions on a mobile phone even if one is not a computer programmer – was created by four 20-somethings in Rome, as Republic reported.

Philosopher Franco Berardi – who way back in the 1970s was part of the Italian autonomous movements – correctly evaluates that what Europe is living today is a direct consequence of the 1990s, when financial capital hijacked the European model and calcified it under neoliberalism.

Subsequently, a detailed case can be made that the financial Masters of the Universe used the aftermath of the 2008 financial crisis to turbo-charge the political disintegration of the EU via a tsunami of salary cuts, job precariousness for the young, the flattening of pensions and hardcore privatization of everything. No wonder roughly 75% of Italians ended up saying ”No” to Monti and Merkel.

The bottom line is that Europeans – from Club Med countries to some northern economies – are fed up of having to pay the debt accumulated by the financial system.

Grillo’s movement per se – even capturing 8.7 million votes – is obviously not capable of governing Italy. Some of its (vague) ideas have enormous appeal among the younger generations especially an unilateral default on public debt (look at the examples of Argentina, Iceland and Russia), the nationalization of banks, and a certified, guaranteed ”citizenship” income for everyone of 1,000 euros a month. And then there would be referendum after referendum on free-trade agreements, membership of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and, of course, to stay or not stay within the eurozone.

What Grillo’s movement has already done is to show how ungovernable Europe is under the Monti-Merkel austerity mantra. Now the ball is in the European financial elite’s court. Most wouldn’t mind letting Italy become the new Greece.

So we go back full circle. The only way out would be a political reformulation of the EU. As it is, most of Europe is watching, impotently, the death of the welfare state, sacrificed in the altar of Recession. And that runs parallel to Europe slouching towards global irrelevance – Real Madrid and Bayern Munich notwithstanding.

The Fall of the House of Europe might turn into a horror story beyond anything imagined by Poe – displaying elements of (already visible) fascism, neo-Dickensian worker exploitation and a wide-ranging social, civil war. In this context, the slow reconstruction of a socially based Europe may become no more than a pipe dream.

What would Dante make of it? The great Roberto Benigni, a native of Tuscany, is currently reading and commenting on in depth 12 cantos – from the XI to the XXII – in Dante’s Inferno, a highlight of theDivine Comedy. Spellbound, I watched it on RAI – the square in front of the fabulous Santa Croce church in Florence packed to the rafters, the cosmic perfection of the Maestro’s words making sense of it all.

If only his spirit would enlighten Inferno dwellers from Monti to Merkel, from Silvio to European Central bankers – aligning Man once again with the stars and showing troubled Europe the way.

“Israel” denounces German columnist article on Gaza

(Gaza-file photo)

Press TV

Israel’s Ambassador to Germany Yaakov Hadas-Handelsman has taken a swipe at a German columnist for his article in which he compared the Gaza Strip with the Nazi concentration camps.

In a Saturday interview with the German daily Rheinische Post, Hadas-Handelsman described as “shameful” the comparison that columnist Jakob Augstein made in his article published in Der Spiegel.

The German author had also said that “Gaza is a place out of the end of times… 1.7 million people live there on 360 sq. kilometers.”

Augstein, a vocal critic of the Israeli regime, later said he “went too far” by the word “camp” but again attacked the Israeli regime by comparing it to the former Apartheid regime in South Africa.

The Israeli envoy said any criticism of his regime’s policies by German people is different from similar censures by the British or the Norwegians and urged the Germans to be more careful about their criticism of Israel.

Gaza has been blockaded since June 2007, a situation that has caused a decline in the standard of living, unprecedented levels of unemployment and unrelenting poverty for Palestinians.

Israel denies about 1.7 million people in Gaza their basic rights such as freedom of movement, jobs that pay proper wages and adequate healthcare and education.

Israel invaded the Gaza Strip in mid-November and killed more than 160 people and injured some 1,400 others during eight days of massive airstrikes on the besieged territory.

German cabinet approves Patriot missiles, US to send missiles to Turkey & Russia developing long-range ballistic missile

German Cabinet Approves Patriot Missiles for Turkey

Al Manar

Germany’s cabinet agreed on Thursday to send Patriot missiles and up to 400 soldiers to Turkey to act as a deterrent against any spread of the conflict in Syria across the border, Berlin’s foreign and defense ministries said, Reuters news agency reported.

Turkey, a NATO member, said it needs the air defense batteries to shoot down any missiles that might be fired across its border.

NATO approved its request for the missiles on Tuesday. The Netherlands and the United States also plan to provide Patriot batteries. Deployment is expected to take several weeks.

“The strengthening of the integrated NATO air defense in Turkey is a purely defensive measure which, as a military deterrent, will prevent the conflict within Syria spreading to Turkey,” said the two ministries.

“The deployment does not represent the establishment of or monitoring of a no-fly-zone over Syrian territory or any other offensive step,” they added.

The Patriot deployment will come under the command of SACEUR Allied Troops in Europe, which can also order the use of Airborne Warning and Control Systems (AWACS), said the ministries.

However, Syria and its allies Russia and Iran have criticized the decision on the missiles, saying it increases regional instability.

Approval from Germany’s Bundestag lower house is not expected to be a problem although some opposition lawmakers, mainly Greens, are against the deployment due to fears of getting caught up in a wider regional conflict.

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US to Send Patriot Missiles, 400 Troops to Turkey

Al Manar

The United States is to send two rocket-intercepting Patriot missile batteries and 400 soldiers to Turkey, the New York Times reported.

“The United States plans to send two Patriot missile batteries and about 400 military personnel to Turkey to defend against a possible Syrian missile attack, two allied officials said Thursday,” the paper reported.

It quoted two allied officials as saying that the two batteries would be a part of six Patriot missiles sent to Turkey by Germany and Netherlands (each country will send two batteries).

“All six batteries will be under NATO’s command and control, scheduled to be operational by the end of January,” the daily said.

NATO foreign ministers last week endorsed the decision to send Patriot batteries to Turkey.
NYT quoted officials as saying that the details of how many each nation would send were not worked out until this week.

It will take three weeks to ship and deploy the two American Patriot batteries, a Defense Department official told the daily.

One allied official said it might be possible to speed up the deployment of the German and Dutch batteries if necessary. Each of those nations will also send up to 400 troops.

The United States, Germany and the Netherlands are the only NATO members that have the advanced PAC-3 Patriot system.

The Patriot batteries in Turkey will be linked to NATO’s air-defense system. The response by the missile batteries would be nearly automatic, firing interceptor missiles to destroy the target by ramming into it, a tactic the military calls “hit to kill,” NYT reported.

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Russia Reveals Developing of New Long-Range Ballistic Missile

Al Manar

Russian military announced that the country was developing a new intercontinental ballistic missile in an apparent attempt to remind the United States of Moscow’s rocket capacities.

Revealing the existence of the project for the first time, rocket forces commander General Sergei Karakayev said that several test launches of prototypes had already taken place and the work was on the “right path”, Russian state media said.

Karakayev said the latest test was on October 24 at the Kapustin Yar firing range in the Astrakhan region of southern Russia. He appeared to link the solid-fuel missile’s development to controversial US plans to install missile defense systems in central Europe which have long angered Moscow.

“The solid fuel missile will allow us to realise possibilities like the creation of a high-precision strategic missile with a non-nuclear warhead with practically global range,” Karakayev was quoted as saying by the state RIA Novosti news agency. He said that the new 100-tonne missile would be able to overcome any existing missile defence system.

Karakayev added the missile would also be effective in combating any future missile defence system that the United States could install in space. He said that the missile would ultimately replace Russia’s new generation of intercontinental missiles the Yars and Topol-M.

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Russia Has Not, Will Not Change Syria Stance

Al Manar

Russia denied on Friday its top diplomat Mikhail Bogdanov made any statement on Syria, stressing it would not change its stance concerning the ongoing crisis in the Middle Eastern country.

“We would like to remark that he (Bogdanov) has made no statements or special interviews with journalists in the last days,” ministry spokesman Alexander Lukashevich said in a statement.

Media reported earlier on Thursday that Bogdanov told a meeting of the Public Chamber official oversight body that President Bashar al-Assad’s regime was losing more and more control of Syria.

Lukashevich confirmed that the hearing with the Social Chamber had taken place but said Bogdanov had “once again confirmed the principled Russian position about the lack of alternative to a political solution in Syria.”

He also assured that Moscow has never changed its position from the Syrian crisis.

“We have never changed our position (on Syria) and we never will,” Lukashevich said.

“Our position remains in effect,” he told reporters. “It is unchanged.”

German banks asked to facilitate medicine sales to Iran

Press TV

Germany has called on its banks to authorize financial transactions with Iranian banks in a bid to ease restrictions on the sale of much-needed medicines to Iran.

In a letter carried in the Sunday issue of Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, the German Foreign Ministry called on German banks to stop blocking transactions with Iranian banks for medicine sales.

The letter has been sent by German Foreign Ministry diplomat Emily Haber to President of the Federal Association of German Cooperative Banks (BVR) Uwe Frohlich.

The letter asked German banks to “look into how they can facilitate transactions between Germany and Iran for humanitarian purposes.”

“Obviously some German banks are refusing to process these transactions, with reference to the political situation and EU sanctions,” Haber wrote.

Iranian health authorities say recent illegal sanctions, imposed by the US and the EU, have made it impossible to obtain the medicines needed to treat some diseases.

A transplant surgeon recently told Press TV that the US-engineered sanctions against the Islamic Republic have caused a shortage of medicine in Iran, endangering the lives of many patients.

Millions of patients, suffering from diseases such as diabetes, kidney failure, hemophilia, multiple sclerosis, thalassemia, and leukemia, are affected by the sanctions.

The illegal US-engineered sanctions were imposed based on the unfounded accusation that Iran is pursuing non-civilian objectives in its nuclear energy program…

“Israel” Lobby of Germany: Targeting Judith Butler

RB comment: Freedom of speech anyone? It seems to apply to some and not to others or rather the rights is abused to certain ends.

by Ludwig Watzal – Bonn, source

Smear campaigns against people who do not follow the narrowly defined, politically correct, rhetoric concerning the permanent violations of human rights and Israel’s brutal oppression of the Palestinian people are regularly conducted by the right-wing pro-Zionist ‘Israel Lobby’ in Germany.

Their newest victim was Judith Butler, Professor in the Departments of Rhetoric and Comparative Literature and the Co-director of the Program of Critical Theory at the University of California, Berkeley. Butler is also active in gender and sexual politics and human rights, anti-war politics, and the Jewish Voice for Peace. She was awarded this year’s Adorno prize of the city of Frankfort. The prize is endowed with 50,000 Euro and is awarded every three years.

Why was Judith Butler slandered? Her “misdemeanors” were that she considers Hamas and Hizbollah as belonging to the global left and because of her support of the BDS-campaign (Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions), targeting Israeli goods coming from the occupied Palestinian territories. After the decision to award her the Adorno prize was announced, all hell broke loose. The protesters’ procession was led by the secretary general of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, Stephan Kramer, followed by Israel’s ambassador in Germany and the usual others.

Kramer accused Butler of being an “avowed Israel hater” and an “accomplice” to the BDS initiative, despite Judith Butler’s nuanced approach towards BDS. But classifying Hamas and Hizbollah as part of the global left ignores their archaic and fundamentalist worldview, especially towards women. Kramer did not, however, conflate Butler’s critique of Israeli government’s policy with “anti-Semitism”. The controversy surrounding the Adorno prize revealed also the tension between universalistic ethic within Judaism and the nationalistic, self-righteous tendencies of Zionism.

In the controversy that surrounded her, Butler remained steadfast, and she received support inter alia from German intellectuals such as Professor Micha Brumlik from the University of Frankfort and from Professor Neve Gordon of the Ben-Gurion University in Beer-Sheva. Gordon wrote, “The well-orchestrated witch-hunt initiated by the so-called Scholars for Peace in the Middle East against Judith Butler is a sly attempt – based on half-truths and lies – to silence a staunch critic of Israel’s rights-abusive policies in the Occupied Territories.”

The smear campaigns by the “Israel Lobby” in Germany occur periodically. Before the current campaign against Butler, there was one against Nobel laureate in literature Guenter Grass who dared – in his poem “What has to be said” – to suggest that the Israeli government is a bigger threat to world peace than Iran. Although the Central Council of Jews in Germany was also involved in that campaign, most slander was carried out by mainstream German media with the exception of Jakob Augstein’s weekly “der Freitag”.

Two years ago, the famous Israeli human rights lawyer Felicia Langer, who lives in Germany, was severely slandered by the “Israel Lobby” and its infamous extremist supporters, when she received the prestigious “Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany First Class”. Some of the slanderers did not even shrink from attempting to blackmail Germany’s President by threatening to return to him their own medals, should he fail to withdraw the Order of Merit from Ms. Langer.

How Palestinian scholars are treated by German institutions and their representatives is exemplified by the case of the renowned British-Palestinian scholar Dr. Ghada Karmi from the University of Exeter. In February 2012, Ms. Karmi was invited to deliver a speech on Palestine at a Middle East conference at the University of Bremen. At the last minute the invitation was withdrawn, the university suddenly claiming that her views were “not appropriate”. Later it turned out that an Israeli Ph. D. student had protested that the conference and Ms Karmi were “anti-Semitic”. Such unfounded allegations were also leveled against Professor Ilan Pappé, an Israeli Jew, to prevent him from speaking in public in Germany.

But things got even worse for Ms Karmi as she attended a conference on June 8-9, 2012 at the Free University of Berlin, organized by the university’s Research College in cooperation with the German Council on Foreign Relations. Dr. Karmi later commented: “What followed was a depressing display of German sycophancy towards the Israeli participants and a barely disguised discomfort with me, as if they had regretted their boldness in allowing a Palestinian voice to be heard.” She was introduced to the conference by a representative of the German Council on Foreign Relations as a person who according to “some Israelis” is “a Palestinian terrorist”. There was no outcry by the audience and no apology to her followed. Had a representative of the German Council on Foreign Relations dared to introduce an Israeli scholar as a person, who according to “some Palestinians” is “an Israeli terrorist”, his career would have immediately ended.

These smear campaigns reflect the desolate political landscape in Germany.

‘German joke: Russia offers Assad asylum’ & Clinton: Sanctions under chapter 7, Russia, China to pay price

German joke: Russia offers Assad asylum

Al Manar

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov confirmed on Thursday that some of its Western partners had asked Moscow to offer Syrian President Bashar al-Assad asylum but said it had dismissed the idea as a joke.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said the idea was first raised by German Chancellor Angela Merkel during her June 1 talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Berlin.

“Our side thought this was a joke and responded with a joke – how about you, the Germans, take Mr. Assad instead,” Lavrov said during a joint press appearance with his German counterpart Guido Westerwelle.

Lavrov said he was “quite surprised” when the idea was raised again during a meeting of Western and regional powers on the crisis in Geneva on Saturday.

“While discussing the subject of Syria, I heard them say they were convinced that we would take him and thus resolve all the problems of the Syrian people,” Russia’s top diplomat said.

“This is either a dishonest attempt to deceive serious people involved in foreign policy or a misunderstanding of the facts.”

Russia has previously rejected the idea of hosting the Syrian strongman while refusing to say whether it had actually been approached on the subject by the West.

Putin himself was forced to dismiss such speculation just days after his election to an historic third term in March.

Lavrov once again argued that any attempts at forced regime change were doomed to end in even greater violence.

“Yes, the regime bears the main responsibility. And governments bear the main responsibility for ensuring the security of their people,” said Lavrov.

But those who seek regime change in Syria “ignore the fact that we are not talking about a few dozen people — as they tell us we are — but a very large part of the Syrian population that ties its security to the current president,” he stressed.

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Clinton: for Syria Sanctions under Chapter 7, Russia, China to Pay Price

Al Manar

As she urged an UN resolution on a transition in Syria backed by sanctions, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton warned that Russia and China would pay a price as the two nations were “holding up progress” in Syria.

“We should go back and ask for a resolution in the Security Council that imposes real and immediate consequences for non-compliance, including sanctions under Chapter 7,” which covers economic measures to military force, Clinton said.

Talking at the so-called “Friends of Syria” meeting in Paris, she called on the 100 nations and organizations in the conference to “reach out to Russia and China” to demand that they “get off the sidelines and begin to support the legitimate aspirations of the Syrian people.”

Taking a tough tone, she said she thought the two nations did “not believe they are paying any price at all for standing up on behalf of the regime” of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

“The only way that will change is if every nation represented here directly and urgently makes it clear, that Russia and China will pay a price. They are holding up progress, blockading it. That is no longer tolerable,” Clinton said.

But she ‘praised’ the “progress” that had been made, saying there is “a steady, inexorable march towards ending this regime.”

She also ‘condemned’ countries at the meeting who had agreed to work towards helping the Syrian people, but who were not imposing sanctions, allowing Assad to stay in power.

“What is keeping him afloat, is money from Iran and assistance from Russia and the failure of countries here to tighten and enforce sanctions,” she said.

“You cannot call for transition on the one hand and give the government a free pass on sanctions on the other.”

Netanyahu thanks Germany for nuclear-armed submarine sale

Press TV

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has praised and thanked German Chancellor Angela Merkel for her commitment to Israel’s security by the recent sale to Tel Aviv of a submarine that is capable of being armed with atomic warheads.

“I take her commitment to Israel very seriously,” said Netanyahu in an exclusive interview with German Bild newspaper on Tuesday. “There is a commitment to Israel’s security that is exemplified by the recent sale of another German submarine, an important adjunct to our national security.”

Asked whether there could be a scenario in which German troops would fight for the Israeli regime, Netanyahu replied, “While I appreciate Germany’s concern for Israel’s security, the most important assistance that can be given to Israel is – to paraphrase Churchill — to give us the tools and we will do the job of defending ourselves.”

The Israeli premiere went on to reiterate that the sale of the nuclear-capable German submarines to the regime was “very important” for defending Israel’s security.

Although the German newspaper did not mention the capability of the submarine, prominent German news magazine Der Speigel revealed in a report a couple of days earlier that the Israeli regime “is arming the submarines with nuclear-tipped cruise missiles.” The magazine further noted that the German government “has known about Israel’s nuclear weapons program for decades, despite its official denials.”

According to Spiegel, a German shipyard in the northern city of Kiel has already built three Dolphin submarines for Israel, which has been largely paid for by the German government and delivered to Tel Aviv, and deliveries of three more are planned.

The Tel Aviv regime is widely believed to possess hundreds of nuclear warheads. Israel neither denies nor confirms its possession of the atomic arms under its policy of nuclear ambiguity. The regime, furthermore, has never allowed any international inspection of its nuclear sites and persistently refuses to sign the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).

Art, writing must challenge pornography of war

Nakba

by Dallas Darling, source

Those attacking German novelist Gunter Grass, who wrote a poem criticizing Israel’s nuclear weapons program and arsenal, should recall what Pablo Picasso once said: “Art is not done to decorate apartments, it is an instrument of war against brutality and darkness.”(1) Picasso had just finished painting Guernica, a vivid yet infamous masterpiece that had captured and exposed the cruelty and destructiveness of a fascist-like war.

In 1937, Nazi Germany supported General Francisco Franco’s Spanish fascists in an effort to destroy the morale of republican and communist enemies. German bombers mounted a four-hour-long attack on Guernica, the capital of the northern Basque region of Spain. The town was almost completely destroyed. Thousands of innocent civilians, including women and children, were indiscriminately bombed and murdered from the air.

Picasso’s critical artistic painting depicts a horse, a symbol of republican Spain, screaming as it is speared through its chest. On the right, figures flee from a burning house, on the left, a mother carries a dead infant in her arms. The horrific scene watched over in the top left-hand corner by a rampant bull, signifying the military aggression of General Franco and fascist forces. A decapitated body lies on the bottom holding a lone flower.(2)

Such critical artistic expression, like that of Picasso and Grass, has been missing from mainstream culture and thought. Israel and the United States have both been seduced by the pornography of war and weapons technologies. Israeli soldiers have worn shirts making light of shooting pregnant Palestinian mothers and children. One even reads, “The smaller, the harder,” as it shows a weeping Palestinian mother next to her child’s grave.(3)

The U.S. National Security State and Pentagon continually sexualizes war and military campaigns through films, magazines, photographs, and a commercialized electronic media. Warfare and military service is transformed into a seductive prostitute by making them appear exciting and glamorous. Youth are aroused and stimulated by seeing strong and handsome and beautiful young men and women adorning uniforms and carrying weapons.

Pentagon commercials and violent, military-oriented, video games induce a sexualized and orgasmic thrill in killing others, especially those portrayed as Arabs or enemies that the U.S. “labels.” America’s love affair with preemptive wars also reveals a fascination with sexual assault, even rape. Just as rapists select their prey and stalk their victims, sometimes killing them, the U.S. selects and stalks other nations, militarily invading and raping them.

Grass, a Nobel literature laureate, has again revived the concept that artistic expression and writing are critical instruments of war and should be used against the brutalities and its “dark side.” Like the atrocities that occurred at Guernica with its utter and indiscriminate bombing of civilians, the pornography of war might arouse complete power, mastery, and control, but it is humanly and morally wrong. Such militant fetishes also backfire.

Israel’s and the U.S.’s nuclear arsenals are shameful and the moral equivalence to war and genocide, as are other nations that stockpile nuclear missiles. They pose a threat to world peace, as Grass mentioned in his poem. There is nothing anti-Semitic about Grass challenging both Israel and Iran to open their nuclear programs to inspections. It is merely critical artistic expression and writing that promotes humankind and life.

Critical art and dangerous writing confronts and challenges the pornography of war and the “dark side” of warfare. It either exposes or tries to prevent naked aggression, rape, torture and death-all brutal methods of control and conquest. It helps free humanity from totalitarian thinking. It is human expression at its best and should never be feared or censored. Both Picasso and Grass understood this important truth.

Will the writer and artist in each of us do the same?

- Dallas Darling is the author of Politics 501: An A-Z Reading on Conscientious Political Thought and Action, Some Nations Above God: 52 Weekly Reflections On Modern-Day Imperialism, Militarism, And Consumerism in the Context of John‘s Apocalyptic Vision, and The Other Side Of Christianity: Reflections on Faith, Politics, Spirituality, History, and Peace.

Notes:

(1) Vaughan, William. Encyclopedia Of World Artists. Hoo, Near Rochester: The Brown Reference Group, 2007., p. 329.
(2) Ibid., p. 329
(3) Sky News. http://news.sky.com/home/world-news/article/15245946.

Zionist lobby made German church ban Palestinian Nakba exhibition

Moqawama

A German church in the western city of “Duesseldorf” has called off plans for hosting an exhibit on the Palestinian Nakba (Catastrophe), the daily German “Rheinische Post” reported.

Claiming that “the exhibit was one-sided,” the Zionist German Lobby Pressure succeeded in banning the exhibition for the second time in the German city after a similar stop in March.

Germany’s powerful Zionist regime lobby has had its hands full to force cancellations of Nakba exhibitions across the country over the past years amid “Israel’s” dismal image among Germans.

Many Germans regard the Zionist regime as one of the greatest threats to global peace, especially in the wake of “Israel’s” murderous wars in Lebanon in 2006 and Gaza in 2009.

They also strongly oppose “Israel’s” massive human rights violations and racial policies in occupied Palestine.

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